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Guest column: We need ecologically sustainable jobs

Let’s make better use of forests

Published on March 16, 2017 7:39AM

Clatsop County Commissioner Lianne Thompson provided this testimony to the Oregon Joint Ways and Means Committee March 3.

Clatsop County Commissioner Lianne Thompson Co-chairs Sen. Devlin and Rep. Nathanson, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you tonight.

My name is Lianne Thompson, and I’m a Clatsop County Commissioner. I appreciate the very great challenge before you in this session as you balance revenues and requests from all over Oregon. It’s no surprise that there are more of the latter than the former. It’s no surprise that many people are requesting — perhaps demanding — that you perform the impossible job of meeting every request with agreement and funding. I’m from the government, and I came to help.

What I’m offering isn’t immediately possible, but it’s a direction forward. I’d ask your attention to wise investment in economic development that provides jobs in ecologically sustainable ways, jobs that grow the hearts and minds of the workers involved as they support our local and statewide tax base. Sen. Betsy Johnson has her Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center project in Scappoose.

I’m in favor of supporting that project with whatever “ask” she has for funding. I trust her judgment. I’m also requesting that you consider investing in factories all over Oregon that will use cross-laminated timber or other mass-timber technology to produce value-added timber products from our private, state, and federal forests. I’d like to see us building modular housing using mass timber techniques. We don’t have specific requests at the moment, but they’re coming soon. Please give them consideration as they provide jobs in rural Oregon. You know that rural Oregon desperately needs those ecologically sustainable manufacturing jobs, or we face becoming ghost towns or theme parks. Let’s instead put tools in workers’ hands, develop opportunity for good jobs, so they can provide for themselves, their families, and their communities. The way forward in developing mass timber jobs, especially ones that will create modular housing (my personal favorite), is not clear right now. We’re still in the early stages of developing the concepts and implementing them. It’s not a “silver bullet,” and it’s not an immediate solution.

But working toward a future that makes better use of Oregon forests allows multiple benefits. If we have secondary production on our timber products in local manufacturing facilities, we do more than provide good jobs.

We also provide a way to pay for essential services, and I know you’re committed to that by your membership on this committee.

Last and perhaps most important for many is that this future will give us the means to also protect and preserve forests in Oregon as wild places, places that provide clean air and drinking water, allow recreational opportunities, and species and habitat protection. It’s a big dream, there’s a lot of collaborative work to be done, but it’s a dream that inspires both hope and common purpose for our shared value, a thriving Oregon. Thank you again for your work.

I am eager to work with you as we move forward.

Lianne Thompson is a long-time community activist who’s currently serving as the elected Clatsop County Commissioner for District 5, the southern half of Clatsop County.


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